UX lessons from the Paris Metro

Paris is so beautiful, it takes my breath away. There’s one overlooked beauty that no one ever talks about: the Paris Metro.

The beauty of the Paris Metro is the clarity of its wayfinding system. In two minutes, you can master this system – even if you don’t speak French. Now, that’s what I call intuitive. With 16 lines and 303 stations, the system is huge. Despite its size, it’s easy to find your way.

Each line has two names associated with it – each name represents the last stop on the route. On my last visit, I started and ended every day on Line 11 (Chalet and Mairie des Lilas). The Chalet station is in the heart of the city, the Mairie des Lilas station is the final stop, just outside Paris.

The signage is so clear and helpful that you never feel lost even when transferring to other lines. If you have to wait, there is sign telling you when the next train will arrive. The wait was usually less than two minutes.

Takeaway – Finding your way in a new place can be stressful. If you’re creating an app or website, make your navigation intuitive so first time users get it. This takes the stress away and sets the tone for a great user experience.

 

Like this post?  Share it. Written by Don Seidenberg.

Two kings and the importance of clarity

Two kings and the importance of clarity

In my adopted country of the Netherlands, everyone is focused on the crowning of the first king in over 100 years.  As a web professional, I am focused on another king: content.

Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, the soon to be king, was recently interviewed by journalists.  He spoke clearly with a solid understanding of the issues affecting the Dutch people.  When asked what type of king he would be, he stressed the importance of being yourself.

Inspired by this interview, here are some ideas on how to make your content king.

  • Be yourself – Don’t be afraid to stand out in a crowd. Let people know who you are, what makes you special and why doing business with you is a royal delight.
  • Understand issues of importance Know your audience, show that you understand the issues that are important to them.
  • Define key messages — What message must every web visitor need to understand?  What other messages, do you need to communicate?  If your site has more than one audience, define the key messages for each audience.
  • Avoid clichés — Clichés are ideas that are so overused that they lack meaning. Using clichés show a lack of creativity and weakness.
  • Start a conversation – Willem-Alexander wants to encourage conversation. He doesn’t want people to call him majesty because it hinders contact. Make sure your content encourages conversation and contact.

Above all, remember clarity is your number one usability principle.  It always improves your content. If you’re pro-monarchy, long live the king! And if you’re pro-website, long live your content!

Like this post?  Share it.  Written by Don Seidenberg

Make your navigation like Schiphol Airport

Web writers, interaction designers and information architects can learn a lot from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Like the airport, our work depends on good user experience and helping people find their way.

Many website navigations offer too many choices.  As a result, people get lost. At Schiphol, you can’t get lost. The signs are clear, consistent and easy to comprehend. You are always presented with information when you need it and in a logical sequence. You are never overwhelmed with choices.

Paul Mijksenaar and his team designed the wayfinding (navigation) at Schiphol to address the needs of the stressed traveler. At his firm, every project starts with an expert walkthrough. The designer needs to understand the psychology of the traveler at every step of the long journey, which begins when leaving home and ends when boarding the plane.

Each sign provides just enough information so the traveler can decide the next step in the journey. In the parking garage, you are presented with the choice of departures or arrivals. At this point it’s too early to receive information about check-in or flights.

According to Mijksenaar, a user friendly navigation has a big impact on customer satisfaction and trust. For Mijksenaar, good signage is like being a good host. It reduces stress, makes visitors feel welcome and sets the tone for a pleasant experience.

You can do the same when you create the navigation of your next website. To learn more about Mijksenaar’s wayfinding principles, visit their website or download the app: 99 do’s and don’ts of wayfinding.

Like this post?  Share it.  Written by Don Seidenberg.

Is clarity the new cool?

Yes, it is.  Clarity is the new cool because it makes things happen.  It helps you connect with customers, sell more products and build your brand.  Without clarity,  the web is one big mess.

That’s where this blog comes in.  I will discuss web writing, content strategy and  user experience from the perspective of a New York expat living in Amsterdam.  Where possible, I will make a connection between the virtual world and the real world.

I hope you find my insights valuable. Feel free to make comments.  And if you like what you read, please re-post and  tell your friends.  You can subscribe to my blog via e-mail or RSS feed.  Scroll down to read my first two  posts.

Like this post?  Share it.  Written by Don Seidenberg.

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